Basen had never seen his older brother like that, he looked like he was in a dazed or was thinking about anything else than the present, when he was alone his expression show no emotion, not even discomfort when maids talk openly about how he was a shame for the whole household, aside from the emptiness in his self everything remain the same it was hard to notice if you were not looking for it but something was wrong, Basen had been observing him on silence and his brother either didn’t notice or didn’t care, when he was with the family he was normal but alone it was as if a puppet had lost his strings and became an empty shell, however Basen couldn’t witness the whole nightmare his brother was trapped in, when the doors of his chambers closed the real fear began.
It didn’t matter how hard he tried to remember his last dream, he couldn’t, not only he couldn’t it was as the more he tried to remember his memories tangled more, for some reason he thought it was dangerous, essentially if he knew he would have time to prepare himself for the next slumber, knowing what was trying to lure you make it easier to wake up, it was not the end of the world however it would be difficult to awake the next time and he would need to prepare for everything and draw the line between illusions and reality. As all of his dreams were related to his mother so the one he was missing probably was the same, but he was not convinced of that being the case.
He was getting nervous day by day and like throwing a rock to a pond, the waves were getting bigger and bigger, it started with minor anxiety but gradually was growing and he was terrified, he couldn’t sleep and when he finally could nightmares would keep him awake or he would wake up to the feeling of being unable to move his body and weird shadows greeting him as he could only moved his neck.
He was scared of dying but more importantly he was scared that even if he died he would not achieve peace, something was telling him that if he gave up and surrender to his fantasies he would be doomed, and being scared was enough for him to forbade sleeping as long as he could, even slight drowsiness put his nerves on edge and as a consequence he had perpetual dark clouds underneath his eyes, a mechanism he would use to keep himself awake was doing hours of exercise to keep his brain moving although he was tired and his muscles seemed to be breaking somehow it help him pretend to be fine.
He played along with his “trash” reputation and would go outside to drink his worries away, he spent less time with his family and would only see them on dinner as he was a good actor he could conceal his appearance as mere exhaustion, nobody seemed to believe him and often would ask if he was fine a question that almost seem ironic to him, the end was getting closer, he could tell.
Ron could tell too, something had happened his young master was withering at an alarming rate, before even when he aisle himself from others he would talk to him and that wasn’t the case anymore, Cale was trapped inside his own mind that made thing worse than what they already were it was a vicious cycle that knew no end, he was reaching a point were he was alive only because he was breathing, the only instance he would show emotions was when he was having an anxiety attack, all of his trapped fear would crush him at once, making it impossible to breath, he was tired and didn’t want to die like that, his own thoughts turn against him long ago as if to tell him that the only relive he would get was dying still on his own way he pulled himself together he had too it didn’t matter how much Ron or Beacrox took care of him if he wasn’t willing to live, and even then, sometimes it was tempting to leave everything behind and just give up, sometimes he couldn’t felt the sun’s warm rays even when he could see them, it was a contradictory and exasperating emotion but he wanted to be happy.
Then after six months of struggle he turned seventeen, the physician had told them he would hardly make it up to thirty but now he was wondering if he would even make it to his twenties and as if it were a wicked game he fell asleep a week later.
His head was a mess and couldn’t hold longer, the inevitable course of events was for him to sleep through meaningless resistance.
Ron and Beacrox proceed as the last time, Harris villa had proven to be a perfect place for them to vanish, also a young punk was more than willing to help them out in case of it being necessary, the condition of their young master who had worn himself out doing exercise to prevent sleepiness looked stronger than before but at the same time it was so frail that Beacrox treat him like glassware, it was enraging they couldn’t do anything to help him and had to witness how he was drifting away more and more.
When they arrived to the only inn on the village they were greeted by the daughter of the owner she remembered them and wished to have a conversation with them but she soon notice the heavy atmosphere that envelop the two men, they had a gloomy aura around them as they pulled their luggage inside, she had ponder the last time as well that the youngest carried a sack with particular attention perhaps it was an item of great importance or something of that sort, she didn’t spare more thoughts on it as a black haired young man beloved by all the village asked for the room of the strangers, last time they seemed to had develop a friendly relationship, maybe Choi Han had guided through the forest, because he knew the place better than anyone.
He had a concern expression he couldn’t cover up that alarmed the young girl but she told him as they knew each other.
‘Did something happen?’ She could only conjecture as she wasn’t really aware but she trusted Choi Han.
He entered the room without hesitation, instead of pacing outside it was better to know how ill his friend was, it was awkward to call an unconscious man that he barely knew a friend but he felt that he was someone he could understand to a certain degree and wished he could help him, the age gap was large but as someone who had no experience dealing with people he was as good as a teeneger same as Cale.
Cale was already laid on the humble bed, his eyes were closed and the eyebags were visible and his red hair was shorter than last time they met, and Choi Han could tell that he was taller than last time as well, his body seemed healthy while his veins were visible under his white skin.
He was light headed, he could feel his heart beating but he was too drowsy to care, he was on his room back at the manor, Ron woke him but he was dizzy and couldn’t think straight and as he was walking down he felt the blood on his head drop to his feet abruptly, his body went limp and Ron supported him, as he was going down he could hear various maids gasp and footsteps rushing in later everything turned black.
When woke up his mother was nursing him, it felt right, she was supposed to be there, his red hair had some silver threads in it, his fair skin hide the pass of time, he was on her mid thirties and her hands were somewhat older and his forehead had a wrinkle caused by being worried, she was just as he remembered her or at least he thought she was, he had never seen her like that, she would had been like that if she had lived to that age, contrary than before she had aged but for Cale it was as if he was waking after collapsing to find his mother as any other child, his mind was clear but his memories were twisted, of course he couldn’t notice, all his preparation were useless if he couldn’t discern slight differences, the dream, as he had experienced before, was not perfect, it didn’t matter if it could mess with his memories how could he notice if he couldn’t remember.
Ron and Beacrox were there too to show that it was fine, he just needed to feel peace and let it swallow him, this time for sure he was not going to let him go.
A week went by in an instant, but Cale showed no sign of waking up, Ron and Beacrox take turns at night to check on him Choi Han help fed him, and often would brought medical herbs in hope they could help or he would talk to him telling him tales of his other world, he was not actually listen so it did not matter if he talk of his other world his main objective was to keep him company he was surprised as how much he could sleep, last time he had test his capability to sense outer stimuli as he tried to wake him up, it was obvious he couldn’t feel anything outside his dream, something that was confirm as Beacrox’s muscle massage did not wake him, said massage help his blood circulation, more than an assassin now that Choi Han watch him well he was like a modern physiotherapist.
Inside him Cale was living a normal life, he went to his heir lessons and often would go outside with his friend Eric, back at home someone was missing, his father was not there however the illusion have no problem on recreating people that was alive, case being Ron, Beacrox and Eric neither of them were dead but were present on his dream and would interact with him. So why was his father not there?
Yet for him it was normal because his father had died years ago on a carriage accident when he was coming back to the estate, his mother had took over the estate and had name Cale as the heir and he would be acknowledged as the lord as soon as he turned eighteen years old, that was natural, it was his responsibility on his mother was there to help him. As he reacted as everything was normal he was going deeper and deeper.
However when he was asleep in his dream, he could hear someone talking to him. It was a voice he was supposed to know, he had heard it somewhere before but when he thought about it his thoughts clouded but he attributed it to the drowsiness and didn’t pay attention to it.
He felt light as someone had take a weight of his shoulders and was ignorantly happy, it was a normal life nothing out of the ordinary he was loved and had thing to do, his anxiety did not existed and he had no fear, it was amazing how some memory manipulation could fixed him to some degree when it was this same curse that began it all.
Since the second month Cale had trouble breathing, he stopped breathing more than once, Ron couldn't rest for a week because his young master could die any minute it was not abruptly or violent, his chest remaining still and that was it, no struggle not a single gasp or sigh just cease of pulmonar activity.
Cale still heard the voice which grew anguish talk incoherence or sentences he could not hear clearly, until he caught one.
‘How long are you going to dream this time?’
Was he dreaming again? He felt something breaking he opened his eyes and the world surrounding him melted, as he was regaining consciousness someone gave him an ultimatum.
‘Next time will be the last one’ The eerie neutral tone gave him chills on his spine and felt a foreing pressure squeezing his heart. He had to get out, he had to run, he was frightened.
But he couldn’t lift a finger, his body was stuck trembling helplessly and couldn’t open his mouth, he felt so impotent and could only cry, letting out muffled sobs. His heavy breath let Choi Han, who was next to the bed, see he was awake.
He was back.
Choi Han knocked on the wall, the father and son duo were in the other room resting, they had discussed in advance to let the others know if Cale returned while they were away, in a heartbeat both get there.
After minutes that felt like ages, his fingers bend on his command, he was recovering control over himself, his erratic breath soothe, he was getting a grasp of reality when dreary eyes caught his attention, seeing the worn out room made him recognize where he was, Harris villa was a comfortable place where he didn’t need to act, nobody could tell he was the count’s son, as officially he wasn’t there, he adapt to the bright light by blinking a couple of times as his senses were gradually returning.
Slowly his arm reached out exploring the familiar situation, asking for water or assistance to sit him up. He knew rather well what followed it was unpleasant he couldn’t move let alone stand, it was a tedious but vital process one that he never got used to, being static made him uncomfortable as he felt like baggage.
For days he didn’t utter a word, it was unnecessary the people around him work like they ever did to fix him again, Choi Han talk to the now awake Cale engaging his mind with anecdotes to ease his pain, it was as if he had an older brother who looked after his sick little brother, he felt sheltered unconsciously letting his wounded soul heal a little bit. They asked nothing because they were aware it would overwhelm him.
Ron watched his young master relaxed expression for the first time in a while. He wanted to keep it like this, his son felt the same way. What could they do to protect him? Ron had meditated on it for a long time, maybe they had to tell his family, even when it was undesirable they had the right to know.
Another blissful month went by adding to the final number of four months, he had been away from home for four months, were Beacrox had sent letters forging Cale’s writing excusing themself saying they were seesighting outside the estate and they believed the letters blindly, Cale was uninterested and they prefer it if he liked to travel it was a good hobby to keep him busy.
However good things as well as bad things come to an end, for him good times gave the impression to last little to none, he eventually had to return.
He bade farewell to his friend knowing that if the situation didn't change he would meet him again.
Back home his parents welcomed him, Beacrox had told him which places he supposedly visited, so he prepare the charade his outing had recharge his will to live and lying was nothing to him, Deruth's eyes sparkled believing his son had a pleasant trip, his semblance was better than when he left.
Returning to the same stressful environment did nothing but cast his mind back to the eerie voice which started hunt his nights, like a soft whisper adventing the last breath he would take, in an attempt to silence the spooky remainder he chugged down to the bottom of every bottle he came across, drinking worked for a while but it was not enough even drunk he heard it coveting him, stalking his every move never leaving him alone, like a presence following him.
Eventually he needed something stronger the alcohol did not kick in anymore, searching for something more effective he found herbs that when ingested altered his consciousness to the degree where he could barely walk, stumbling as drunk but under a heavy daze that filled him with satisfaction, on more than one occasion, while being under the effects and rambling around the city, people would approach him trying to get advantage of him because of his expensive attire and vacant face, those would regret messing with him due to Ron frequent surveillance, as he couldn’t stopped Cale from deviant all he could do was ensure his safety, after almost a year of spiraling down and failing to protect him he started reasoning that maybe if they flee the estate his young master would recover, thinking of how he could help him he reach the conclusion it was time to come clean.
Nonetheless the opportunity to run away would vanish with the visit of their atypical friend.
It was late on the evening when the sun had already sank, a dark hooded figure jump over the walls of the estate, clothes soaked with blood and dirt, his dark eyes were deep as an endless black sea, his harden expresion hinted that something terrible had happened, the man infiltarted the manor as if it were easy, all the security and guards were fooled instantly, but the man slowed down his pace as he sense a familiar presence, peeking out from his hiding discreetly he observed a man almost tripping over the hall, the red-like-fire hair was familiar to him as well as the complexion of the red headed silhouette, he leave the shadows and approached the stumbling man.
He took a minute to asses his condition, they had met after almost a year but his condition was nowhere near as it had been the last time the saw each other, his body was somewhat average but some veins pop out visibly from his arms, the normally white part of his eyes had a yellow hint to it, and his vision was blurry, the man notice as Cale was squinting his eyes trying to discern who was next him but gave up seconds later, as he didn’t care or couldn’t smell the reek of blood the stranger was carrying
Choi Han wondered how someone could decay so fast, and his heart hurt watching how neglected his friend looked. Soon Ron appeared out of thin air and quickly immobilized him, the violent action made his hood fall, letting the old assassin recognize him.